BY CORY WOODROOF
Our Home Page Game of the Week finds us looking at the county’s ever-contested 6A district, where the Brentwoods and Independences and Centennials of the world all vie for playoff spots and seeding.
You know how tough the competition is, and who typically sits atop the summit when it’s all said and done.
This week, perennial champion Ravenwood will get its biggest test of the season yet – an upstart Franklin team led by junior quarterback Josh Nichols, junior receiver Chancellor Bright and senior running back Matt Gaca. The trio feel primed to score on anyone, at any time, making this one of the underrated offensive trios in WillCo football.
But, the Raptors have their own x-factor, as they always do, at quarterback with junior QB Brian Garcia. Garcia can hurt you in any myriad of ways and has helped his team from notching a mark in the loss column so far this year.
Both teams went up against challengers from Rutherford County last weekend, with the Raptors edging Siegel and the Rebels stomping Riverdale. As noted, Ravenwood sits undefeated right now, and Franklin might be, as well, if not for a couple of fortunate Brentwood bounces in that sure-to-be-talked-about-for-ages Week One matchup.
This week at Franklin, a budding contender with something to prove will host an established one in transition. District ramifications are on the line. Can Ravenwood stay undefeated, or can Franklin get one of its signature wins in recent program history?
Ravenwood showing resiliency early in season
When you look at what Ravenwood has done this season, you’ll start to notice a theme.
In their season-opening game against Centennial, the team roared back a 21-point second-half comeback win over Centennial. Last week, they got down against Siegel and summoned more comeback magic to stay perfect on the year.
We’re used to seeing the Raptors dominate. How about seeing them display resiliency?
The head coach wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I think I would rather have a 2-0 start in the way that we’ve done it than have two blowout games,” Ravenwood head coach Matt Daniels said. “The mindset now coming into this Franklin game this week is a lot more focused than it might’ve been than had we won big the first two weeks.”
The history of the school calls for champions, but any champion knows you don’t start the climb with a trophy or a ring. Sometimes, it takes time for the best to find their footing.
To Daniels, the comeback mentality might help keep his team more grounded with the past’s demands, the present’s challenges and the future’s potentials.
“I’m kind of thankful for [our start],” he said. “In the win column, a win’s a win, so we feel good about being 2-0, [but] we don’t feel great about the way we’ve played. We feel good about the way we’ve finished and found a way to win a game, but I think our guys are focused on being a little bit more consistent this week, taking it from one quarter to the next.”
To Daniels, he knows the expectations for his team. But he also knows expectation doesn’t always meet reality. They’re not going to be overlooking anybody on the schedule this season, particularly a Franklin team Daniels feels was close to flipping their 3-7 2017 record to 7-3 last fall.
“I think we’ve listened to outside expectations a little bit too much and expected to just show up because we’re Ravenwood, and we’re just going to win against teams we should win against,” Daniels said. “I think if you do that against Franklin, it’s going to be a long night and a wake-up call.”
Franklin coming together after tough opening loss
Talk about a tough start for Franklin.
In the school’s heated rivalry against Brentwood, a down-to-the-wire finale at the Bruins’ place left Franklin with a loss, despite a spirited effort.
It was one of those games where both teams deserved to win, but only one could take the crown. These types of games really can make or break your year before it even really gets going.
Head coach Donnie Webb wanted his Rebels to know
“Last Friday, before we took the field against Riverdale, I told them that I had never been prouder of a football team in a loss than I was of them the week before,” Webb said.
For Franklin, the narrative isn’t always on their side. They’re coming off a rough year and are acclimating Nichols into the main spot, just like Ravenwood is with Garcia. But, the talent is there for Franklin, and judging by their 24-7 win over Riverdale, it’s beginning to click.
“I think we have the opportunity to be a really good football team; I really do,” Webb said. “When you’re constantly told from outside the program you’re rebuilding, you’re not there yet, all that type of stuff, it begins to wear on you as a kid.”
To Webb, the Brentwood game showed what his team could be, even if the final score didn’t.
“I told them how proud I was of them, and I told them if you play with that effort, I’ll put you out there just about every play,” Webb said. “For the first half last week…if you take away the first play…it was as pretty a football as I’ve seen at Franklin in the last several years.”
It’ll be imperative for Franklin to take their effort and put it into the rest of the season, particularly for Friday’s matchup against Ravenwood.
Is it time to start expecting more from Franklin? Is it time to expect Ravenwood will start to turn the motors on in its patented way? What will Friday tell us about these two district contenders and the expectations for both?
These questions are why Ravenwood/Franklin is our Home Page Game of the Week.